Organic Mercury Identified as the Cause of Poisoning in Humans and Hogs

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  02 Apr 1971:
Vol. 172, Issue 3978, pp. 65-67
DOI: 10.1126/science.172.3978.65


Atomic absorption spectrophotometry and neutron activation analysis showed the presence of mercury in organic extracts of seed grain and in tissues of hogs fed the contaminated grain. Mercury was also found in the urine, serum, and cerebrospinal fluid of humans who ate the contaminated pork. Mass spectral analysis confirmed the presence of organic mercury. This paper reports the first documented episode of indirect mercury poisoning in humans in the United States caused by the ingestion of contaminated meat from animals that had consumed mercury in their food supply.